Ceres High School grad/University of Georgia senior Mahlena O’Neal will be offering hitting and catching lessons over the next two weeks to softball players, aged 9-16, from the 209 area that donate money to organizations that support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
“I’m not doing this for praise,” said O’Neal, a 22-year-old Mexican-American who contributed on offense and at catcher as a member of the Georgia softball team the past four seasons. “It’s my way of trying to help make a positive change. I’m educating kids. We’ll never experience the hatefulness black people get all the time. Every person regardless of skin color needs to be treated fairly.”
O’Neal decided to use her athletic talent to bring awareness to social injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Derek Chauvin, a white officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, while he was handcuffed face down in the street.
Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” as he begged for his life.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.
Three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
“I couldn’t watch the video,” O’Neal said. “It was too sad. People have had enough. I have black family, cousins, uncles, friends and teammates. They’re hurting. I want to let them know I care.”
Players must show proof that they donated to organizations that support the BLM movement prior to receiving lessons.
“Any donation $25 or above will result in a 35-minute lesson,” O’Neal said. “Any donation that is $45 and above will be an hour lesson.”
O’Neal offered the first of what she hopes to be many lessons on Monday.
She will continue to meet with players at local parks and indoor facilities.
“I’ll be driving to them,” O’Neal said. “I’m available all day, 8 a.m. until it gets dark. If more people want to donate, I’ll do more lessons after the first 14 days.”
O’Neal and her siblings learned about racism at a young age through conversations they had with their parents.
O’Neal was in junior high when George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old black high school student Trayvon Martinez.
Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, shot and killed Martin when the two got into a physical altercation in Florida.
Martin, who was unarmed, was walking back to his father’s fiancée’s home from a convenience store when Zimmerman saw him and called police.
Zimmerman followed Martin despite being told not to by a 911 dispatcher.
“Seeing the not guilty verdict crushed me,” O’Neal said. “It opened my eyes. I wanted to get involved but I was too young. Now, I’m older and I can. It doesn’t matter where you come from and what you believe in, we can all do our part. We’re not close to where we need to be.”
To sign up for lessons, contact O’Neal at 209-360-4858.
O’Neal will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There are many ways to get involved without having to be at protests,” she said. “There are petitions to sign and people to email. I wish I would have done that when I was younger.”
“As the world has progressed, each generation has become more accepting,” O’Neal added. “Our generation cares about the type of person you are. It doesn’t matter what you look like.”